Corporate sales is one of the most sought after profile for a Sales professional. Unlike institutional and channel sales, the strategies needed to excel at Corporate sales are completely different. But some factors such as staying in touch with your market and always being ahead of the game are pre requisites of being a sales professional whether you are in corporate sales or channel sales. Here are 9 steps to make you truly rock at corporate sales
1) Know your product – Once you get into a corporate, the first 15–20 days (Your honeymoon period) will probably go into learning the product. Although it is a time where you are adjusting to the change of being part of a new organization, at the same time it is absolutely necessary that you pay as much attention to learning the product as possible. Convincing a customer solely lies on your ability to explain the product to them. You are expected to have all the technical answers and if you take your own sweet time answering technical questions, you may lose your customers interest. Thus the first step is to Know your product in and out and probably your first month may go in understanding the product itself.
2) Build a database – Once you are knowledgeable about the product, its time to enter the field. However, you cant just go out and start making sales calls. Initially you need a database. Let me emphasize something. A corporate sales guy is as good as his Database. This is mainly because your database helps you build your prospect list which is finally converted to your customer list. Thus the database is your second step and and a very important step to become a thorough corporate sales guy. There are some concessions here though. Mainly that in today’s date, building your database is not difficult. You have a lot of sources online. However, working on your database is immensely important. Categorize your database into “Small, Medium and Large customers”. Furthermore after your initial meet with them classify these customers as “Hot, medium or Cold” prospects. Thus at any given point of time, your database itself tells you where you are standing in terms of your monthly / quarterly objective. Build a database and Maintain it!!
3) The importance of cold calls – One of the most detested jobs a sales guy has to do is cold calls. But let me tell you this – I believe in cold calls!! They are one of the best methods to actually get attention and grab peoples interest. Provided you are in that kind of a sector. During my own corporate sales tenure, i had to meet Human resources managers. They were top brass themselves. But whenever i used to go on a call, i always used to enter a separate office, get the name of HR and leave. Several times i got the chance to meet the HR directly on a cold call. And some of those times, those HR’s did convert to my customers. So lets say, if i make 3 appointment calls in a day, i also make sure i do 4–5 cold calls and just touch the neighboring offices, get the concerned persons number and leave. Call them the other day, learn whether they are interested in your products and then take an appointment. If you look at the big picture, Cold calls help a lot in increasing your database and thus are as important as planned calls (of course cold calls don’t help in every sector. You have to use them sparingly. But they are a good database builder and should be primarily be used to build your database)
4) Taking appointments – Taking appointments is an art absolutely essential to corporate sales. Many a times your appointment will be with directors and senior managers. You cannot just barge in to meet such people. Furthermore, several times you might get an answer on the phone itself that they are not interested in your product?. How do your react then? Well, here’s the truth. Taking appointments is the single most important job you have to do. Once you have an appointment, your sales pitch and your product knowledge take you forward. However, If you don’t have an appointment, your preparation doesn’t mean anything. Thus learn the art of taking appointments. Be polite on the phone, know how to handle secretaries or receptionists and how to clearly convey to them about the importance of you speaking to their superiors. Be excellent in your follow up such that you ultimately get through to the top brass. Once you are talking to him, be sure to convey in as short message as possible, the reason of your visit. Don’t forget to mention your product and your company as he might not be interested in you but he will definitely be interested if he hears of a reputable product / brand or company. Finally take an appointment and be on time. If the person you want to meet is not there, drop him a mail saying you had visited. If by any chance you are late or you cant make it, remember to call your customer and tell him advance. And finally, be presentable when you turn up for your appointment.
5) Probing – Probing is the art of knowing more about your customer. Lets take a couple of examples
a) Lets say you are an office supplies salesman. Your customer is new to your product and is just starting an office. At such a point you would like to know how many number of employees he has, what is the general budget he uses for office supplies, what kind of office will he want, how many conference rooms are there, will he have office supplies such as pen and notebooks even at reception, so on and so forth. You get the hint. You need to know everything about your clients business so that you can explain him why he needs your product.
b) Now lets say it is a competition customer who is looking for office supplies. You need to know which supplies is the customer using, which office supplies is your competition not able to provide, what is the main thing your customer is looking for in the competition. Thus if at one point of time, you notice a chink in the armor of your competition, you sweep in and convert the customer to your products.
Thus probing is very beneficial. And furthermore it prepares the customer for a pitch. As you are asking questions, he becomes more and more relaxed and is ready for the main pitch line or the main business to be discussed.
6) Having your pitch ready – There’s a specific term which shows the importance of pitches – The elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is mainly a 1 minute pitch which helps you convey your ideas effectively in as less time as possible. Pitching your product is immediately followed by probing. Once you know your customer, you know what kind of pitch would he be looking for. You have to adjust your pitch according to your customers requirement. If your customer is looking for energy saving instruments, you cannot start by talking about power generation equipment’s, right. They are two completely different products. Thus look for a “Product fit”. If pricing is the main factor for the customer, start with showing the best pricing options you have. If he has a specific product feature he wants, convey to him that the same feature is present in your product which is available at XYZ price and will be delivered to him within 1–2 days. So he should definitely go for it!!! Effective pitching comes only after your probing. If you don’t probe your customers, you wont know what are they looking for and thus your pitch goes haywire.
7) Follow ups – You cant close a sale in the first call (Possible in the products sector but definitely not in services sector where the product is intangible). Thus you need to have an amazing follow up. Follow ups can be in the form of both – Phone calls or emails. However, its important that you get an answer from the customer at the earliest. Otherwise you will be kept following up and someone else will take away the order. Thus your follow up needs to have a purpose. Ask your customer where your deal is currently and whether there are chances of the deal going forward. If he dodges the answer, then it is more than likely that he doesn’t want to go ahead. No matter. Follow up does not mean you follow up only with your existing customers. Its ok to be in touch with non customers as well as competition customers too. Remember – its better that you regularly nudge your target customer instead of your competition doing so. The customer will only remember the one who is in touch. You don’t need to breathe down your customers neck. But definitely a friendly phone call once a month goes a long way in building a relationship. And that’s what you want to close your sale.
8) Closing the sale – Closing a sale is dependent on one thing only – Trust. And for building trust, you need to be convincing. The customer can be convinced on various things. It can be on you as a sales person. He is buying because you have built his trust for the product and have convinced him. He might be buying because he is convinced this is the best price he can get for the product. He is buying because he trusts that your product is a better performer than the competitors. Thus, by using factors which you think can convince the customer, you can close a sales call. There are several tricks in closing a call. Some customers need to be followed up a lot, others like to be asked a direct question, some others like to browse the market, look for other things on offer and then make a decision. In all this time, it is important that you follow up with your customer and show him the importance of closing a call. In fact, purchase managers are so smart, they might even be waiting that you get desperate and give further discounts. They know you have sales targets. Even if a sales is not closed and the customer moves on to your competitors, don’t get disheartened and observe what went wrong in the sale. Then start again.
9) After sales – The worst kind of sales person is one who does not realize the importance of after sales service. Selling to a customer and then not providing service is what creates negative publicity. And in today’s social world, word spreads fast mainly on sites like Facebook, forums and other such networks. I have written several articles on importance of customer retention. It is quite well known that the cost of retaining your customer is half as much as acquiring a new customer. This is especially true in corporate sales. Once you acquire a corporate as a customer, it is imperative that you provide him the right kind of service. A corporate can be an excellent revenue generator over and over. Thus you need to deliver on your promises. Today’s corporate’s are smarter and they also have a blacklist wherein, once a company is blacklisted it never gets an entry again. Thus make sure you don’t enter that blacklist else you have lost a corporate forever. As i said before – A single phone call a month goes a long way in building relations. Just let them know you are there for them. And when they genuinely have a problem, make sure you solve it.
In the end, it is important that you follow all the steps above. It looks like a lot but in truth, it goes like mechanical work once you get sales in your system. There is a saying that goes “Once a sales guy, always a sales guy”. That’s completely true. Love the job and the excitement involved in Corporate sales and i am sure you will get good growth and returns.